&* andsplat, a blog by Ben W. Fey

a blog by Ben W. Fey

The love of film photography

In July 2017, Austin and I went to the Grand Canyon with my parents and sister. It was a great vacation and if you haven't visited the Grand Canyon, you should make that happen. I don't know what I was expecting, but the views of the canyon were indeed grand. It seems to be appropriately named.

self-portrait using the Nikon F3 35mm film SLR camera
Grand Canyon, Nikon F3, 50mm f/1.8 AFD, Kodak Ektar 100, EPSON V550 Scanner

Why am I talking about the Grand Canyon in a post about film photography? I think it was the Grand Canyon trip that reminded me how much I love film photography. This was something I didn’t really know, but looking back, I see it now.

I have always been interested in photography. I can even remember a photography competition that I entered in elementary school where they gave us Kodak disposable cameras. I took a photo of a nearby waterfall. I’m sure the photo wasn’t great, but I have good memories of the competition. I also have good memories of my parent’s film cameras: a Kodak 110mm camera and Canon point and shoot 35mm camera.

Photograph of the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, Nikon F3, 50mm f/1.8 AFD, Kodak Ektar 100, EPSON V550 Scanner

Through college I mainly shot digital (Nikon Coolpix, Canon G7, and then a Nikon D80). I don’t fully know why, but while in college, I purchased a 1958 Zorki 4 35mm film rangefinder camera with a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2.0 lens and a Holga toy medium format film camera. Two film cameras. I didn’t have a light meter at the time, and just shot a few rolls of film using the Sunny 16 rule.

Fast forward to after college when I was living in New York City. I was still using my Nikon D80 for most of my photography, but I bought the classic Nikon F3 from Adorama, a Polaroid SX-70 from the Brooklyn Flea Market, and a Seagull TLR from B&H. All film cameras. It was during my time in New York that my parents bought me my first light meter for Christmas, a Sekonic L-208. Some of my favorite photos from my time living in NYC were from these film cameras.

Photograph of a Do Not Enter sign with a person in the background past the sign
Grand Canyon, Nikon F3, 50mm f/1.8 AFD, Kodak Ektar 100, EPSON V550 Scanner

What is it about film? Is it the nostalgia? Probably a little, if I’m honest, but I think the main reason I enjoy film photography is the pace. I find I slow down and think more about the framing, the light, the motion of the object before taking the photo. While living in New York, I gave myself rules that when I walked around the neighborhood I could only take 36 frames with my Nikon D80, as if I had a roll of film in the camera and not a SD card that could hold hundreds of photos.

OK, back to the Grand Canyon. When we went to the Grand Canyon, I decided it would be a great opportunity to take both my Nikon D750 full frame DSLR and my Nikon F3 35mm film SLR. I walked around the canyon with both cameras, one hanging from each side and a tripod in my bag. Yes, it was heavy carrying both cameras, but I am so glad I did.

Sign telling hikers to watch out for the mules when they pass
Grand Canyon, Nikon F3, 50mm f/1.8 AFD, Kodak Ektar 100, EPSON V550 Scanner

Before the Grand Canyon trip, I mainly shot with digital cameras. After experiencing the Grand Canyon with a digital camera and a film camera, I now mainly shoot film. Yes, some of my favorite photos from the Grand Canyon trip are from my Nikon D750, a digital camera, but shooting with the Nikon F3 during this trip helped me realize that I enjoy shooting with film more. I find I see things better when shoot with film, I actually look at what I am shooting. When I’m shooting the Nikon D750, I am looking at the back LCD screen and making adjustments. It’s more stressful as I feel I can make sure I capture the shot. If I miss the shot with a film camera (both from timing or exposure errors), it’s a learning experience. I also look around me more instead of at a LCD screen on the back of my camera, so I’m more present in my surroundings when shooting film.

The Grand Canyon trip was in July 2017. Since then, I have bought 6 more cameras (5 film and 1 digital), sold 4 cameras, and bought a new light meter (Sekonic L-558). I have also started to develop my own black and white film at home and scan my film with my Nikon D750, two subjects I want to write about in the near future. I still shoot digital cameras, but am enjoying being able to focus time on my film photography. Perhaps film photography will help me finally write more on my blog!

small plane in the sky from below
Grand Canyon, Nikon F3, 50mm f/1.8 AFD, Kodak Ektar 100, EPSON V550 Scanner

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